The life of Appudi Adikal Nayanar is a glowing example of how an entire family dedicated their lives to serving the devotees of Lord Shiva. Adikal lived in a village called Tinkalur, the place where the Moon worshipped the Lord. Devotion to the Lord, who stopped the poison in His throat was Adikal's very existence. Anger, falsehood, deception, infatuation and other base thoughts did not affect him just as fog cannot affect the Sun. He came in the tradition of Veda chanting brahmins. Though he had never seen the King of Words, Tirunavukkarasu, he mentally worshipped him, inspired by his devotion and the grace the Lord bestowed on him.
Adikal’s love for Vagisha was so much that he became a servitor in the name of Tirunavukkarasu. He named his kids, his cows, the cooking vessels and everything one saw in his house as Tirunavukkarasu. Perhaps, if left to him, he may have named himself Tirunavukkarasu too! He had never seen Vagisha in flesh and blood, but always kept in mind his name and his service to the Lord. He built inns, dug ponds, installed tents where cool water was served to the travellers travelling in the severe heat and provided many benefits for the servitors of Shambhu all in the name of Vagisha. His name didn’t appear anywhere.
While this service continued in the name of the servitor of Shankara, that great Tirunavukkarasu, after worshipping and serving the Lord (uzhavar pani - Removing the pests and weeds that caused damage to the precincts of the temples with a small instrument) at the town of Tirupazhanam, made his way to Tinkalur. As the heat of the Sun suffocated him, he saw a water shelter which was like the peace of mind God offers to His devotees as they face the heat of worldly life. Vagisha arrived at that shelter to have some water. He was surprised by the name Tirunavukkarasu written all over the shelter. That most humble sage asked the people there who were running that service about that name. They informed him that it was only one among the many services that a person by name Appudi Adikal, who worships the sacred fire daily for the well-being of the entire world.
Tirunavukkarasu arrived at Appudi Adikal’s home. As soon as Appudi Adikal heard that a devotee of the Lord, who holds the holy Ganga in His head, had arrived at his doorstep, he rushed forward to welcome him. Without knowing that he was none other than the person he had been worshipping all along, he prostrated to that devotee, who was already bent in prostration to him. When Appudi Adikal expressed his gratitude towards the Lord that he had the opportunity to serve a gentleman of mature love for the Lord. The marvellous sage, Tirunavukkarasu, who always thought only about the service to the Lord, praised the nice water shelter he has been to and also the other services that had been setup by Adikal but, wondered why he had used some other name in place of his own name. Irked by his reference to the name he adored as "some other name", Appudi Adikal shouted, “What are you saying! Is the name of one who won the battle with the Jains, who were backed by the king, by the sheer strength of his devotion, just ‘some other name’ to you? The world knows the fame of that flawless, who made the rock he was tied to and thrown in the sea into a boat out of his love for the Supreme. In this holy garb you speak unpleasant words! Who are you? Where do you come from?”
The humble, Tirunavukkarasu, knowing about his love, said "I am that unwise person who without realising the greatness of Lord Shiva joined some other religion and was rescued by the mercy of the Lord by a severe stomach pain." Shocked, speechless and petrified are not enough to describe the Appudi Adikal’s state when he realised that that devotee was none other than his venerable Tirunavukkarasu. He immediately fell to the ground and clasped his feet, unable to find words. He felt like a poor man suddenly getting a heap of gold. He sang and danced in happiness. He brought his entire family, friends and relatives to salute the great sage. They sprinkled on themselves the water which they used to wash the feet of Vagisha and the entire family rejoiced. He pleaded with the revered sage to accept the feast at his house. When Tirunavukkarasu accepted it, he knew it was a boon which was the grace of the Almighty, more than his own good karma. His wife prepared a variety of pleasing food. The couple asked their eldest son by name Muththa (eldest) Tirunavukkarasu to get the banana leaves to serve the food. That boy swiftly got into action, taking it as his own good fortune by being born to such good parents. As he cut the leaves, a snake bit him on the hand. That great young devotee hastened to hand over the leaves to his parents before the poison could kill him and was determined not to reveal the snake bite as it would delay the feast for the sage. Should the father be praised for bringing up such a wonderful child or should the child be praised for living by the principles of the father? In this case it was the entire family that excelled.
The parents found out about the snake bite when their son fell down dead after handing over the banana leaves. But, the eagerness to host the devotee being foremost in their mind, they wrapped their loving son in a mat and concealed it. Appudi Adikal rushed back to the sage as the feast was getting delayed. Before sitting down for food, Appudi Adikal washed his feet and Tirunavukkarasu blessed the couple and their children with the holy ash. At that moment, Vagisha asked about the couple’s eldest son in order to bless him as well with holy ash. Unwilling to reveal what happened, Adikal simply said, "He won't be of use now". This stung Tirunavukkarasu’s heart and he asked him to detail what happened. Though didn't want to miss the hosting of feast for the adored devotee, but, unable to conceal it, Appudi Adikal narrated the whole incident. Appalled by his deeds, Tirunavukkarasu prayed to God in his enchanting words, with the Devaram “onru kolam avar chindhai uyarvarai” bringing the child back to life. For a man of sincere devotion, the Almighty is always ready to do anything. While the town hailed the child’s resurrection, Adikal was concerned about the fact that because of him the feast had been disturbed!
Tirunavukkarasu then came to his house to partake the feast and get rid of Adikal’s disappointment. Appudi Adikal arranged the banana leaf beautifully with the food. The sage asked him and the children to have food along with him. Devotees yearn for having food along with other devotees. That feast thus satisfied both Adikal’s family and the sage. After staying with him for a few days, the emperor of simple sweet words, left for Tirupazhanam to recite hymns on the Lord, where he adored the love of Appudi Adikal in one of the Devaram hymns. With the love for God and adoration for Tirunavukkarasu symbiotically growing one another, Adikal reached the dancing feet of the Lord. Let the selfless service of Appudi Adikal Nayanar and his family stay in our mind.
Guru Pooja : Thai / Sathayam or Makara / Satabhisha
Har Har Mahadev